Late-term abortion is back in the news, thanks to Dr. Kermit Gosnell. The problem is, these news stories are accusing Gosnell of performing late-term “abortions.” As I explain in my previous post, this is a dangerous misrepresentation of the word.
It occurred to me that while I recognize this conflation, others may not. Whether because of anti-choice propaganda or just plain ol’ ignorance, late-term abortion is precariously misunderstood. So I’d like to set the record straight.
While first trimester abortions are typically “elective procedures,” late-term abortions — generally defined as those occurring after 24 weeks — are not. Nor are they common: only one percent of abortions in the U.S. occur after 21 weeks.
Women seeking these procedures did not suddenly decide that pregnancy and motherhood are, in fact, not for them. They are women who are forced to make excruciatingly difficult decisions, faced with “fetal deformities so severe their child either would not survive pregnancy, would be born only to die, or in which carrying the pregnancy to term would threaten” their very survival (via RH Reality Check).
For instance: a recent New York Times article about abortion in New York City quotes a doctor who gives the example of a “41-year-old who’s been trying for seven years to get pregnant, then at 21 weeks finds out she has breast cancer and has to terminate the pregnancy.” RH Reality Check has also compiled a number of stories from women who were forced to make this painful decision and are brave enough to share their experiences.
So there you have it.